Saturday, March 17, 2012

[Lao Steampunk] Dynamite Warrior

In 2006, Khon Fai Bin or Dynamite Warrior was released in the theaters, a Thai Isan production featuring all Isan cast and crew. 

Set in the late 1890s, Dynamite Warrior tells the story of a Siamese noble who wants to sell expensive steam-powered tractors to the farmers, who cannot afford their 1,000 baht price tag. The noble then schemes to force the farmers to buy the steam-powered technology by arranging for a vicious criminal to kill or steal all of the water buffalo in the area.

But then they get thwarted by the Dynamite Warrior who is apparently armed with traditional Southeast Asian rockets and mystic martial arts fighting prowess that is apparently vulnerable to a spell involving a virgin's menstrual blood. A wizard who's a master of black magic gets involved, and subplots of baby kidnapping, long-standing revenge, and similar themes we've come to expect from Asian martial arts films.

Overall, I'd recommend it as a film to start getting a sense of the costumes, the fighting, and some of the tropes that are possible within this era. The acting and plot is a little uneven, but interesting as it runs counter to most steampunk alternate histories that suggest we want people to have more access to technology and that technology is the answer to a better retro-future.

This definitely falls in line with some of our earlier questions over whether or not a Lao steampunk setting would be more likely to embrace less 'modernization' in the European mode, although the Dynamite Warrior definitely makes some interesting use of indigenous technology.

I wasn't particularly enamored with the black magic elements. I felt the story could have been told well without it and it would have been more interesting to see a story play out between a steam-powered noble and an inventive commoner. That's one of many interesting ideas that weren't explored in this film.

The film can drag at different points but it was a film that held more interest for me than Tears of the Black Tiger or Ong Bak 2 when considering how we might tell a historical Lao story.

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